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Stepping out in leggings can be fun, fashionable

Style do's and don'ts should be observed to avoid sending the wrong message, experts say.

Leggings made their way onto the Chanel spring

Leggings made their way onto the Chanel spring 2019 show in Paris.   Photo Credit: WireImage/Dominique Charriau

Poor leggings. They’re one of the best things that have happened to fashion or one of the worst, depending on whom you talk to and the wearer.

They’re comfortable, easy to pack in a suitcase for a trip, and seemed to have gotten the ultimate stamp of approval when they showed up in Paris at the Chanel spring show, but their appearance on the catwalk didn’t end the talk.

There remains plenty of debate about whether leggings are a pant or tights to be worn under a tunic, long shirt or dress, and about how and where they should be worn and by whom. And they’re raising more and more eyebrows as the leggings trend veers toward wearing them virtually anywhere and wearing them as super-tight pants.

“I don’t like that people are running around in their workout pants,” says Carrie Tintle, owner of Crinoline Fashion Boutique in Greenport. “It’s one thing if they’re running into a deli, but not if they’re going to dinner.”

In April, a mother of four sons, Maryann White, even wrote a letter to The Observer — the student newspaper for the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana, and the nearby women’s college, St. Mary’s — asking female students to stop wearing leggings because they made it difficult for men to control themselves.

White’s letter only gave the leggings debate more legs.

In two days of protest, students wore leggings and a #leggingsdayND hashtag was created on Twitter, with both men and women posting pictures of themselves in leggings to show their support for wearing leggings.

No matter which side you’re on, however, the do's  and don’ts for leggings can be tricky, and yes, debatable.

“Depending on the legging, they can be worn for work, for evening, for daytime events — anywhere really,” says Danielle Merollo, personal shopping director for the Americana Manhasset Shopping Center. She notes Wolford, Max Mara and Sally LaPointe all make great leggings that can be worn during the day or to dress up at night.

Merollo adds, however, that gym leggings should not be used to make an outfit, and she also says leggings are not tights.

“Leggings are different, as they come in different fabrics,” Merollo says. “Tights are considered a stocking, they just have a thicker cage.” She adds: “If it’s a workout legging, a jacket or something should be worn [when not working out]. If it’s a legging for a particular outfit, it’s similar to wearing a fitted pair of jeans and you can wear any type of top.”

Tintle says she sees leggings “as more like a pant,” and she adds, “You shouldn’t be able to see through them.” She says she believes anyone can wear them, but they should be part of an “age-appropriate outfit,” and standout leggings patterns or colors are a no when not in a gym.

“I’m not a fan of anything over-the-top crazy,” Tintle says.

So, if you like leggings but you’re not sure how to wear them outside of a gym, here are some tips and looks from stylists that can give you a leg up on leggings do’s and don’ts.

How to manage the leggings look

1. When not in the gym, leggings should be covered up in some way such as with a long shirt or jacket.

2. Leggings can be worn virtually anywhere, but make sure the leggings and the look are appropriate for the occasion.

3. Leggings with loud colors and patterns should be reserved for the gym.

4. Too-tight leggings that aren’t covered can send the wrong message and usually aren’t attractive.

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